Avoiding & Resolving Arguments at Christmas Time

The partners at ARC have been invited to speak on our local radio station BeatFM about managing and resolving conflict over the holidays. Christmas can be a very stressful time for many people as they struggle with the time and cost demands of organising festivities. With the right attitude and support it can be a wonderful and relaxing holiday which invigorates you for the challenges of the new year. In this post, we discuss some tips for having an argument-free holiday.

1.   Manage expectations, yours and theirs

Don’t feel pressurised into spending more than you can afford – if money is short this year due to a change in circumstances tell your siblings/parents/extended family and be inventive with the gifts you buy.

2.   Plan the day well

If you are having family over, plan the day well and realistically. Set the time for dinner and work out at least two days beforehand how long everything will take to cook, confirm to others what food they are prepping and bringing and ask for help on the day!

3.   Less running around a happy bunny makes

Don’t feel pressurised into accepting all invitations – if you don’t really want to go, say “thank you for your kind offer but we can’t make it”. Remember that there are 12 days of Christmas, as the song goes, so don’t try and get all visits done on a single day.

4.   Respect new Christmas traditions

Families evolve and change and so should Christmas traditions. If the newly engaged or married couple want to make their own arrangements or if a marriage or relationship ended in 2014, be supportive of the new arrangements.

5.   Put away those emotional buttons!

Wrap your emotional buttons in cotton wool and mentally put them out of reach of family members. Put on your happy hat, avoid petty conflicts and keep a cheerful attitude. Try to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, just for one day. Deliberately push away the internal dialogue which creates negative narratives for the behaviour of family. You really do have a choice about how you react to a situation and that feeds back to how you feel. The 2 aren’t separate.

6.   Stop the argument before it starts – the Honey Boo Boo Strategy

If someone is behaving badly and you feel your blood pressure rising, try to see that they’re acting out because of fear or frustration. We sometimes tell them to picture Honey Boo Boo, the eponymous star of the reality tv show, standing there and let the moment go. In any event, it’s better to walk away and cool down rather than “up the ante” by engaging in a row. Arguments don’t have winners and nobody is going to thank you for having a blazing row at Christmas time.

7.   Don’t pick sides

If you see old family rivalries surfacing, don’t take anyone’s side. Play the role of mediator and defuse with compassion and humour, if possible, or speak one on one to the relative that is being a Christmas Grinch

8.   Don’t compare the cost of gifts

Appreciate the gesture whatever the value. Most people spend all they can afford, and often more, at Christmas time. Comparing gifts will injure their pride and create ill will.

9.   Be mindful of those who have suffered loss this year, they may not be feeling the Christmas spirit

If you are feeling particularly low, don’t suffer in silence, reach out to a trusted family member and seek support.

10.                 Manage alcohol consumption

Old insecurities and familial rivalries can surface when the alcohol is flowing. Be mindful of your own consumption, and discourage excessive drinking in others. Make sure you prepare fun non-alcoholic drinks for those who will be driving.